Some jobs numbers were released this morning. ADP private payroll numbers came in at 238,000 jobs versus 200,000 that were expected. This report is a potential harbinger of what's to come when the government releases December jobs numbers on Friday. Investors will also be watching the minutes from the Fed's last meeting, which will be released at 2pm ET today.
Alan Mulally has ended speculation that he may be the next CEO of Microsoft (MSFT) telling the Associated Press that he will continue as the CEO of Ford (F). Mulally was considered to be on the short list to replace Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, who announced in August that he would step down as CEO. Mulally told the AP he wants to end the Microsoft speculation and that he plans to stay at Ford at least through 2014. Reuters reports Microsoft is close to finding a replacement for Ballmer, who will step down early this year. While Ford shares rose 1.3% in after-hours trading, Microsoft was down 1.1%.
But it wasn't all bad news for Microsoft. China has temporarily lifted its ban on foreign companies building and selling video games and their consoles in the country. This opens the country to Microsoft's X-Box, Sony's (SNE) PlayStation and Nintendo's Wii-U consoles. The government will allow the consoles to be made in the Shanghai free trade zone and sold after and inspection from Chinese authorities. In terms of competition, because of the ban, a generation of Chinese gamers have grown-up with free PC and mobile games. China issued the ban in 2000 because of what it says were the adverse affect of video games on young people.
Now here are four stocks the Yahoo Finance team will be watching for you today.
First up, Constellation Brands (STZ). The beer, wine and spirits company reported adjusted earnings this morning of a $1.10 a share, beating estimates of $0.91. Revenue rose 88% from last year to $1.44 billion dollars which beat estimates of $1.39 billion. Constellation shares are up more than 88% since this time last year.
Next, Monsanto (MON) reported earnings today of $0.69 a share beating estimates of $0.64. Revenue came in at $3.14 billion on estimates of $3.07 billion, and is up from last year's posting of $2.94 billion. Monsanto has faced public outcry over the safety of genetically modified organisms in food. As you may remember, last week General Mills (GIS) announced it would be making Cheerios GMO-free. If other food companies follow suit, it could spell trouble for Monsanto which breeds, grows and sells genetically modified seeds. The company's stock is up over 20% since this time last year.
Now, Micron Technology (MU), which we covered yesterday ahead of its earnings but we want to highlight again because the stock is up 9% in early trading. Shares of the largest U.S. maker of memory chips are up after the company beat on earnings yesterday. Micron reported profits of $0.30 a share versus the $0.21 expected after the close. Revenue rose to $4.04 billion, more than double last year's sales. The stock was up 5% yesterday. Micron had a stellar 2013, up over 200%.
Finally, McDonald's (MCD) whose stock could see movement today after it was downgraded by Wells Fargo from Outperform to Market Perform this morning. The price target range for shares of McDonald's was also lowered from $104 - $108, to $100 - $102. Wells Fargo says it downgraded McDonald's because it has lost market share in the U.S. in three of the last four months through November. It believes rivals like Wendy's (WEN) and Burger King (BKW) have raised the competitive bar. McDonald's shares are up only 6% since this time last year.
As we said, Alan Mulally will be staying put as CEO of Ford, ending speculation that he'll be heading to Microsoft to replace Steve Ballmer as its CEO there. So the search continues for Microsoft. Does it worry or excite you, as an investor or consumer, that Microsoft is taking its time to find a new CEO? Vote on the poll to the right on the Hot Stock Minute page and leave a comment below.